ClickZ ran one of those good wake-up call type articles about search marketing. It comes with a Penguin headline, but it's really about much more than Penguin. It's about how you shouldn't run your business relying too heavily on how Google is ranking your content.
How dependent on Google is your business? Let us know in the comments.
The article was written by Sage Lewis, who made one statement in particular, which I think is worth reflecting on a bit:
"It is very possible to build a business without Google traffic."
It may not seem like it sometimes, but I believe Sage is right. Do you? Can you run a business without Google traffic?
It may mean doing some things differently than you're currently doing them. In fact, if you were hit by the Penguin update (legitimately), you're definitely going to want to rely on tactics that don't involve gaming search results. It's just not a sustainable business model. Even if you weren't hit, and you're managing to get away with something, it could be only a matter of time. If you think Google launched this Penguin update and that's the end of it, you're living in a dream world. If it's anything like the Panda update, we'll see numerous iterations of it. Google launched 2 Panda data refreshes in April alone - bookends for the Penguin update.
It will be interesting to see how often we even hear about new Penguin updates. Since it's designed to hit spammers, I don't expect we'll see the amount of complaints we've seen with Panda, which is more about content quality.
Of course, even if you were not hit, and you aren't spamming Google, you still shouldn't be putting all of your eggs in one basket, because Google does make over 500 changes to its algorithm each year. There is always the possibility that Google will make a change that starts ranking other things above you.
By the way, when we're talking about Google traffic, we're talking about organic search. You can always buy AdWords ads. Lewis mentions a handful of other online marketing strategies, like AdCenter, Facebook ads, LinkedIn ads, display, social media marketing, content marketing that brings visitors directly to your site and email marketing (which still has tremendous effects, by the way).
The good news is that if you run your business, and your content as if you're not worried about Google, you'll probably find a lot more ways of driving quality traffic. Furthermore, if you are creating the kind of traffic that does well for other channels, it's likely that Google will take this into consideration too, and you'll have a variety of traffic sources, which end up including Google anyway.
As you've read over and over again, it really is a matter of providing worthwhile content and products (or just content, if your content is your product). If it's high quality, and has something to offer that people aren't getting elsewhere, it is more likely to be shared across various social networks, talked about, and linked to. These things can drive traffic on their own, but it's also the content that Google wants to rank well.
Google's advice is not to worry about specific algorithm changes so much, and focus on good content. Sure, it's possible to play to certain signals Google uses, but that piece of advice really is more than just hot air from Google. There really is a great deal of merit to that mentality.
Still, it nerver hurts to keep up with Google's latest algorithm changes, and be aware of what's going on.
Do you think a business can survive without Google traffic? Let us know in the comments.